Health & Fitness Amongst Black People

fresh-fruit-and-vegetablesIt is unfortunately a fact that the incidence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke* amongst peoples of African descent is statistically significant as a factor affecting longevity in the elderly.

There is stark choice that must be made: whether to carry on oblivious to the reality and continue to watch our veterans/survivors in the struggle for equality, justice and universal humanity fall by the wayside out of basic neglect and ignorance for maintaining optimal lifestyle choices; alternatively we can pool the knowledge and information available to better inform and encourage those at risk of precisely what lifestyle choices constitute a high risk status.

Our parents and fore-parents as ‘transient residents’ in the Caribbean or associated European colonies worked hard as slaves or indentured labour. As such the daily workload (historically verified) was heavy to say the least. However this mitigated the starchy, carbohydrate calorie laden dietary choices that enabled the conversion of all those carbohydrate calories (whether simple or complex) into available energy to work under pressure.

These same foodstuff choices have filled the plates of people of African descent whether they reside in Europe the Americas or wherever. This is particularly true of the older generation whose cultural identification with at least their choice of nutrition remains resolute.

The funny thing is that lifestyles have changed greatly yet a commitment to the same food choices has not. Combine this with the fact that there is no such commitment nor choice to exercise or at least be active enough to mitigate the excessive caloric input of these foods. Such high calorific input demands activity for the body to metabolize the calories for energy rather than store them as fat in the body’s cells under the skin around internal organs (visceral) adipose tissue and fatty deposits on cardiopulmonary (relating to heart and lungs) blood vessels.

The sedentary lifestyle of inactivity, little or no exercise, unresolved issues relating to stress, whether domestic, work or generally society orientated, lead to hypertension and psychological trauma.

The study by Dr Mariam Molokhia – Clinical Research Fellow, and Pippa Oakeshot of the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine showed that in BMI (Body Mass Index) figures of greater than 25 were positive indicators of cardiovascular disease risk i.e. ultimate cardiac arrest, atherosclerosis, diabetes, hypertension etc. There is little evidence to point to cardiovascular risk being associated with smoking, alcohol consumption or cholesterol levels amongst African Caribbean people.

Dr Malcolm Kendrick in his book The Great Cholesterol Con verifies with global statistical studies that cholesterol levels bear no relation to heart disease!
Essentially black people are allowing themselves to become fat and at risk of avoidable obesity related diseases! What is more, black men of African descent and Jamaican black men in particular are deemed to be most at risk of prostate cancer which is the second leading cause of cancer death.

What is the choice to be made? Indeed what will the choice be? Black people it is time to get real and realize that if you really do want to live for a long time and see the most then a few changes in lifestyle choice need to be made.

We cannot escape that health and appropriate nutrition are integrally linked. Your food should fuel your daily activity and essentially the activity levels of people of African descent need to increase across all age groups!
Think of the activity levels and nutritional choices available to our ancestors originally in the Motherland. Bear in mind that it takes 100,000 years for your DNA to change by 1%! In the meantime do read through the suggestions for adopting healthier nutritional choices below.


  • Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.
  • Use liquid vegetable oils and soft margarines in place of hard margarine or shortening.
  • Limit cakes, cookies, crackers, pastries, pies, and muffins, doughnuts and French fries made with partially hydrogenated or saturated fats.
  • Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars. Many snack foods and drinks have added sugar. Cut back on added sugars to lower your total calorie intake. These foods tend to be low in vitamins and minerals and the calories add up quickly. Also, drinking calorie-containing beverages may not make you feel full. This could tempt you to eat and drink more than you need and gain weight.
  • Limit how much saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol you eat. These fats are usually found in meat and dairy foods and products that are commercially baked and fried. Cutting back on these foods can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering the amount of calories taken in at one meal sitting. 1 gram of fat has 9 calories compared to the 4 calories for protein and carbohydrates. Also it only takes 3% of the calories contained in the fat you eat to absorb it into your body compared to 25% for carbohydrates and protein!
  • Select fat-free, 1 percent fat, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.
  • Cut back on foods high in dietary cholesterol.
  • Aim to eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day.
  • Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars.
  • Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Aim to eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. That means one drink per day if you’re a woman and two drinks per day if you’re a man.


– Sprafka JM, Folsom AR, Burke GL, Ed lavitch SA. Prevalence of CHD risk factors in an urban black population: The Minnesota Heart Survey 1985. Prev Med 1988; 17: 321–324

– Kaplan NM. Ethnic aspects of hypertension. Lancet 1994; 344: 450–452.

– Morgan M. The significance of ethnicity for health promotion: patients’ use of anti-hypertensive
drugs in inner London. Int J Epidemiol 1995; 24 (Suppl 1): S79–S84

– Van Drenth BB, Hulscher ME, Van der Wouden JC, Mokkink HGA, Van Weel C,
Grol RPTM. Relationship between practice organisation and cardiovascular risk recording in general practice. Br J Gen Pract 1998; 48: 1054–1058

– Ebrahim S, Davey Smith G. Systematic review of randomised controlled trials of multiple risk factor interventions for preventing coronary heart disease. Br Med J 1997; 314: 166–174.

– Thorogood M, Coulter A, Jones L, Yudkin P, Muir J, Mant D. Factors affecting response to an invitation to attend for a health check. J Epidemiol

– Community Health 1993; 47: 224–228

By Floyd Brown
(Local No. 111)

About The Ethiopian World Federation Inc

The Ethiopian World Federation, Incorporated in 1937, is a not-for-profit membership organization, incorporated in the State of New York.
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